The Trees and We Breathe Bombs Long Gone by Elisabeth Schilling

bikini atoll bombI wish that in our pursuit of finding cures for illnesses we would do more as a collective species to prevent the causes, sometimes environmental ones. Why do we vote for people to make decisions that represent us but that we would never in a million years agree to? Bombs and the consequences of them raise questions of health and power. In the Yoga Sutras, 2.30, we read that “Yama consists of non-violence, non-lying, non-stealing, appropriate use of vital energy, and non-possessiveness.” The yamas are our social restraints. They are a negation of behaviors we might usually partake in.

Ahimsā, or non-violence, is listed first. It is the first element of the first limb of yoga; it is the basis for every other ethical aspect of our lives. Bombs are an example of a common and frequent behavior of violence that make the land, water, and sky increasingly uninhabitable. According to Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations, in 2016 alone, the U.S. is estimated to have dropped 26,172 bombs. Zenko says that this estimate is “undoubtedly low.” (1) This is one year and the bombs from one nation. (2) What is the environmental impact of all of the bombs dropped from every nation since the beginning of bombing history?

When a bomb is detonated, there is not only harm to the immediate life in that vicinity but life in the future and far away. According to the International Campaign to Abolish Weapons (ICAN) website, “the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War has estimated that roughly 2.4 million people will eventually die as a result of the atmospheric nuclear tests conducted between 1945 and 1980, which were equal in force to 29,000 Hiroshima bombs.” (5)

According to a statistic updated March 2016 on the Ploughshares Fund website, nine countries in the world have a total of 14,900 nuclear weapons, the U.S. and Russia holding 93% of them. (3) They have been used twice, both times by the United States, in war, but additionally they have been used in tests over 2,000 times in more than 60 locations over the globe, according to ICAN. (4) There are already unavoidable consequences to the earth and humans because of this irresponsible behavior that is ongoing.  These tests occur in the atmosphere, under the earth, and under water. (6) Continue reading “The Trees and We Breathe Bombs Long Gone by Elisabeth Schilling”

Contemplative Education: A Pedagogical Approach of Compassion by Elisabeth Schilling

green pathEven though I encountered wisdom literature when specializing in Hinduism during my Religious Studies doctoral program, through reading the works of Christian female mystics and the liberation theologies of feminist spiritual guides, it took a book I never encountered in my academic studies to give me a spiritual foundation that feels complete after my departure from Christianity: Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. It led me to the place where I am now, practicing mindfulness, being aware of the ego, and attempting to live in the present. Now I can return to wisdom literature with a lens that helps it make sense. Although I did not know it when I began utilizing these ideas in the classroom, there is an entire pedagogy based on them.

Contemplative education is based on the observation that the world is in need of healing and the majority of people have not encountered helpful ways to deal with their suffering. Why not use the classroom for healing and to create healers? Contemplative education has five goals or elements: 1. deep, or critical, thinking, 2. constructive communication, 3. awareness of the global impact of our behaviors, 4. personal development/well-being, and 5. a non-sectarian admiration for and inclusion of wisdom literature and traditions. This last element is what really distinguishes this pedagogy from others. And I see how it shares a great deal with feminist practices as well, especially as feminist pedagogy honors experiential knowledge, self-reflection, and activism. Continue reading “Contemplative Education: A Pedagogical Approach of Compassion by Elisabeth Schilling”

Chants of Help and Self-Compassion to Heal the World by Elisabeth Schilling

green path
Recently I have cultivated a meditation practice. I only meditate for about 20 minutes, usually taking a comfortable position on a sunlit patch of carpet near an open window in the late afternoon when no one is home. My meditation is simple. It just consists of being aware of my breath, feeling my body, and a chant. The chant for this week is what I would like to share. It is a chant of help and self-compassion that may nourish you as it has me.

Camakam is a Vedic chant that comes from one of the four Vedas, Yajurveda, meaning prose mantra (yajus) and knowledge (veda). I have come to knowledge of a portion of it through Nicolai Bachman’s audio Chants Asking for Help. It is a prayer for the fulfillment of wishes, the description to this one says. Below is a sample with the translated lyrics in italics:


[. . .] śam ca me [. . .] and peace to me,

mayaśca me and delight to me,

priyam ca me and love to me,

‘nukamaśca me and proper desire to me,

kamaśca me and desire to me,

saumanasaśca me and positive thoughts to me,

bhadram ca me and a blessing to me,

śreyaśca me and the best for me,

vasyaśca me and better (things) for me,

It may seem arrogant or selfish to express these thoughts. But this is not a situation of wanting power-over or to boost the ego. I don’t feel individualistic or prideful when I pray these wishes in meditation. It is more of a feeling of healing, being courageous enough to speak good into the universe for myself, being a supportive mother to myself. Continue reading “Chants of Help and Self-Compassion to Heal the World by Elisabeth Schilling”

Low Impact Giving as a Holiday Gift to Mother Earth by Elisabeth Schilling

BeachAs the winter months approach, at least one “Christmas” gathering will be on my schedule. As this holiday has been co-opted by consumerism as evidenced by my memory of the throngs of sales and shoppers in large shopping centers to get “the perfect gift,” I wonder how to give the perfect gift to Mother Earth simultaneously. At the December meeting of my local chapter of the Sierra Club, one of the members passed out a list of gift ideas for a “low-impact” season. Some of the items on the list include or have inspired the following:

Gift Coupons for Services – cleaning out a garage, taking care of someone’s kids for the day, a home-cooked meal for a family, showing someone how to set up composting, teaching someone to knit.

Memberships/Lessons – Yoga classes from a studio, membership to a museum or a gym, art lessons, music lessons.

Gift Basket of Sustainability-Minded Products for Cleaning/Bath  

Donations in Honor of Someone

I am sure many of us are already creative in our gift giving. So hopefully you will all comment and share your low-impact gift traditions. For those of us who haven’t quite transitioned or have never fully thought of pursuing this course of action, there can be some resistance encountered in those who receive low-impact gifts. Continue reading “Low Impact Giving as a Holiday Gift to Mother Earth by Elisabeth Schilling”

Lotus in the Mud: A Metaphor for Humanity on our Darkest Days by Elisabeth Schilling

BeachThere are days I find myself so overwhelmed with sadness concerning the state of our world that I break down crying. Last week, I saw an episode of Mars, a scripted documentary shown on the National Geographic channel about human colonization of the red planet in 2033. One of the astronauts “interviewed” prior to leaving was asked why she was taking such a risk to inhabit Mars. She said something like, “We will give everything for this.” Why not give everything for Earth?

If we would give everything for the planet we evolved on, then we might immediately transition to a life where we would be self-sustainable, build greenhouses in our backyards, give up our carbon-emission- producing cars, and abandon all the unnecessary businesses that are only there to fill our loneliness and boredom. The idea on the psuedo-documentary was that humans are putting this planet in danger, so it might be smart to have a backup. Isn’t that insanity’s way: trash one place and then find another place to live? The insurmountable amount of money we spend on space expeditions could be spent healing our own world. This is not the time for luxuries. Continue reading “Lotus in the Mud: A Metaphor for Humanity on our Darkest Days by Elisabeth Schilling”

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